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Ghostwatch: The BBC spoof that duped a nation


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Location : London

Ghostwatch: The BBC spoof that duped a nation Empty Ghostwatch: The BBC spoof that duped a nation

Post by Candlelight.kk Mon 30 Oct 2017 - 12:08

BBC, 1992

It was billed as a spoof, but many of Ghostwatch's 11 million viewers were taken in by the BBC's fake investigation, which in one tragic case led to a teenager taking his own life. On its 25th anniversary, his parents and the creator of the show talk about its impact.

Ghostwatch: The BBC spoof that duped a nation GWCuting

It's Halloween night in 1992, and families across the UK are excitedly huddled around the television.
Saturday night TV is at its peak - Gladiators has just premiered on ITV, Casualty is enjoying its seventh series and Noel's House Party is pulling in 15 million viewers a week.

But tonight's big draw is the BBC's heavily-promoted Ghostwatch, a supposedly "live" investigation into paranormal activity being recorded at a family home in Northolt, north-west London.

The programme was the brainchild of horror writer Stephen Volk, who had originally conceived it as a spooky six-part drama, but who was instead asked by producer Ruth Baumgarten to create a 90-minute ghost story for the broadcaster's Screen One series.

Michael Parkinson, one of the BBC's most trusted faces, was asked to present it. Alongside him was popular children's television presenter Sarah Greene, together with her husband, TV and radio host Mike Smith.

It was groundbreaking television in many ways - from the infra-red, heat-seeking camera used to "spot" ghostly activity to the pixellation of an interviewee's face.
They also used videotape, instead of the typical 16mm film, to make it look more homemade.
Though the production team wanted it to look realistic, shortly before its transmission the programme featured on the cover of the Radio Times , inside which it was explained it was a drama.
But not everyone read the Radio Times. And when Ghostwatch aired at 21:25 GMT, there were consequences the corporation had not foreseen.

Ghostwatch's viewers were invited into "the most haunted house in Britain", where Pamela Early and her two daughters were being spooked by a poltergeist.
The nation was told a team of researchers had spent the last 10 months investigating the mysterious movements of a ghost named Pipes - so-called because it kept banging on the water pipes.
In the studio, Parkinson urged viewers to phone in with their own ghost stories
As Greene followed the paranormal activity around the house, the tension mounted and the Early family were subjected to increasingly terrifying experiences as the spirit of a dead man apparently entered the children.

By the end of the show the ghost had "seized control" of the TV cameras. At the Early's house, paramedics and police were seen arriving, and Greene, who was trying to locate one of the possessed girls, disappeared into the blackness.
Back in the studio, the floor was deserted apart from a dumbfounded Parkinson.
But behind the scenes, the Ghostwatch production team were enjoying celebratory drinks as the programme aired.
"Ruth [Baumgarten] arrived with a white face and said the switchboard had been jammed at the BBC," Volk says.
"I kind of laughed lightly and she said very seriously, 'no, they really are jammed with people very irate'.
"That was a bit of a 'gulp' moment."
More than 20,000 people had tried to get through to Parkinson at one point during the programme.
Many of the viewers were children, who had been left traumatised by what they thought they had witnessed.
"I think three women who were pregnant went into labour that evening," says Volk.
"A vicar phoned in to complain that even though he realised it wasn't real he thought the BBC had raised demonic forces.
"It was partly that it scared people, but the complaints were actually more that the BBC had made them feel like mugs.
"People felt the BBC was something they could trust, and the programme had destroyed that trust."
In its wake, a tide of anger rose against the BBC, which received thousands of complaints.

Read more:

Stephen Volk was one of the Speakers at the 'Seriously Strange' Conference at Bath University in 2011, which was held by the ASSAP (Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena) .  It happened to be the venue for the Spiritlove forum Meet-up that year.  Fabulous memories from that magical weekend. 
Stephen Volk made mention in his talk about the spoof BBC program.  It was the first time that I had heard about it.
Seems quite unbelievable to think that people (lots of them!) can be taken in so easily and to such an extent as happened on that occasion.


Posts : 3203
Location : London

Ghostwatch: The BBC spoof that duped a nation Empty Re: Ghostwatch: The BBC spoof that duped a nation

Post by Candlelight.kk Mon 30 Oct 2017 - 12:45

Watch the actual program here:

    Current date/time is Thu 28 Oct 2021 - 18:37